Three Iranians living in Texas were indicted by a federal grand jury in Portland for illegally funneling money to Iran, U.S. District Court officials said today.
Hossein Lahiji, 47, of McAllen, Texas, Najmeh Vahid, 35, of San Antonio, Texas and Ahmad Iranshahi, 53, of Tehran, Iran, were indicted for conspiracy to defraud the United States and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
In a news release, federal officials said the three transferred Lahiji’s and Vahid’s purported donations totalling more than $1.8 million to the Portland charity the Child Foundation, investing the funds in Iran in violation of the U.S.’s Iranian embargo.
Lahiji and Vahid, a married couple, retained interest and control in Iran over a significant part of the transferred funds, but then claimed them as deductions to reduce their U.S. income tax liability. Lahiji and Vahid are scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court in San Antonio ext week. Iranshahi is a fugitive.
“It is imperative that the donating public have confidence that charities providing overseas services, are operating in compliance with all applicable U.S. laws,” said U. S. Attorney Dwight Holton. “These defendants are charged with going to extraordinary lengths to conceal the transfer of large sums of money in violation of the trade restrictions with Iran that have been in place for well over a decade. This prosecution will help restore confidence in the integrity of charities.”
Federal court officials said the defendants funneled the cash through Swiss bank accounts, and disguised cash transfers as food commodities from the United Arab Emirates.
Further, the indictment alleges, the Child Foundation provided funds “for a large portion of the overhead and operational expenses in Iran. Iranshahi, the head of a related Iranian entity, took control of the funds once they reached Iran, and provided deceptive records and receipts for auditors and regulators in the U.S.”
Official said the charge of conspiracy to defraud the United States carries a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The conspiracy to commit money laundering has a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment and a $500,000 fine.